Limited construction projects moving ahead on Oakland campus

Exterior of Petersen Sports Complex


Some construction projects at Pitt that were stalled earlier this year because of the pandemic are coming close to completion, Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management told the Senate’s Plant Utilization and Planning committee on Oct. 26.

All of the projects were already underway before the pandemic forced the University to shut down most buildings.

Two projects actually opened up in the past two weeks:

Petersen Sports Complex: Coaches started moving into their new offices this week next to the baseball, softball and soccer fields on upper campus. The $16.5 million project added another floor to the existing building. The work consolidated into one building the baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s lacrosse teams and coaches. It also will provide additional space for locker rooms, restrooms and training, as well as room for sports medicine, nutrition services and equipment. Worked started in July 2019 to add a third floor to the existing building and expand the first and second floors.

Bigelow Boulevard: The crosswalk between William Pitt Union and the Cathedral of Learning, which is slightly raised to slow traffic and add to pedestrian safety, reopened last week, along with the redone plaza on the Fifth Avenue side of the union. Bigelow closed on Nov. 1, 2019 and originally was scheduled to open before the start of the fall semester. The road will open to vehicle traffic after concrete planters are in place to control the flow of both pedestrians and vehicles. The planters, which were delayed because of the pandemic, are expected later this year.

Other projects

Scaife Hall: The auditorium was recently demolished to make way for a 104,000-square-foot addition. Infrastructure work under Lothrop Street is ongoing. The addition and other renovation work at Scaife Hall will cost around $120 million and is scheduled to be completed by August 2022. Lothrop Street remains closed for infrastructure work to support the new construction at Scaife Hall.

Hillside enabling project: Work is continuing on a new roadway that would run behind Eberly Hall and then wrap around in front of the Chevron Science Center, to leave room for the planned rec center and more housing along the hillside. It also will include green space to the north of the road for students to travel up and down the hill more safely and to have gathering spaces. Some hardscape areas are planned, which will create more stormwater runoff. Mary Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor for Planning, Design and Real Estate, said she and Bernotas are working on opportunities to put tanks in to store the water and reuse it in places like the Posvar plant, creating less need to buy potable water. The project also includes utility work, which Bernotas said is about halfway done.

Cathedral of Learning ground floor: The men’s and women’s bathrooms are being completely demolished and rebuilt, and air conditioning is being added in the corridors. Bernotas said the AC work is being done overnight and should be completed before the spring semester starts. The bathrooms are closed now and when completed should look like the renovated men’s restrooms on the second and third floor of the Cathedral. The women’s bathrooms on the second and third floor will be redone next summer.

Murdoch Building: Work is wrapping up on the tenant improvements that Pitt wants on the Murdoch Office Building on Forbes Avenue. Pitt has contracted to lease 81,000 of the building’s 95,000 square feet for $2.3 million annually. People from the Learning Research and Development Center are scheduled to start moving into the third through sixth floors in January. The current LRDC building on O’Hara Street is slated for demolition at some point, along with the O’Hara Garage, to make way for a new recreation center. The demolition was originally scheduled to begin just after the 2020 spring semester ended but was delayed because of the pandemic. The School of Medicine already is using space on the seventh and eighth floors, and the Physicians Assistant Studies program is on the second floor.

Other facilities news:

  • McGrew also gave an update on where Pitt’s Institutional Master Plan stands. She said they will present the plan to the city’s Planning Commission over two or three meetings in November and December. The commission will then hold a hearing and then the plan will go to Pittsburgh City Council for approval, hopefully by March 2021.

  • Bernotas said Facilities has for some time been trying to improve diversity among the contracted workforce. “We're not just talking about giving business to minority-owned contractors or women-owned contractors. We're interested in that and that's part of the plan, but we want to make sure that they're employing a diverse workforce and that they're inclusive in their hiring practices. We've been doing this for a while, but to be honest, we would like better results than we've had so far.” He said they’re working with the Master Builders Association to identify diverse companies.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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